Real Answers from Real Pilots

Career Change?

Hello,

My apologies if this has been covered before (I tried searching around and couldn’t find it).

A little backround-
I am 33 years old, live in N.J., married (no kids yet, hopefully soon), and I own a successful swimming pool business. I started my private pilot a few months ago and at the finish line now (all I need is my practical exam). I really enjoy flying, Everytime I hear a plane fly over, I look up and wish i was on it :rofl:.

The Change-
I’ve talked to many instructors at my school, but most are younger than I and very few have airline experience. I realize with the switch I’ll have a huge pay decrease (I wouldn’t be doing this for the money), but that isn’t my biggest concern. My biggest concern is the work home balance. At my current job I am home every night but always stressed, and always working for about 9 months out of the year. This drives my wife and myself nuts, as quality time is far and few between. I want to ask truly how is the work life balance? I’ve read schedules and see they vary greatly but when working at a regional, and moving towards seniority while growing a family, is it such a good idea to switch?

I read somewhere that Hawaiian airlines fly a lot of vfr and usually home at night. That sounds like a dream job but I know we don’t always get what we want in life, and don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket.

Any advice is appreciated from anyone and all walks of life!!

Justin,

Welcome to the forum. After growing up with a pool, I vowed never to have one. I got tired of always fighting the green and the yearly $3,000 surprise (pump, Polaris pump, cracked pipe, loose liner, etc) that comes with opening the pool each spring. But I digress…

You will not find many, if any at all, CFIs with airline experience. Most pilots use being a CFI as a stepping stone to the airlines. Once a pilot is at the airlines, there is no financial incentive to go flight instruct on your days off. Beyond that, most newly minted CFIs are far better equipped to teach new pilots than airline pilots are. I have not flown a small airplane in years, the knowledge and skill set need to fly a small airplane is different than that which it takes to be a successful airline pilot. At 33, most CFIs will be younger than you.

As to the schedules, Hawaiian’s are a bit of an anomaly and even they have recently begun doing overnights for their local crews. I would encourage you to check out Tory’s, Jordan’s and my schedules as they are far more reflective of the industry normal. I would say that I average about 14 days off per month. This means that I am gone for the better part of 16 days, but those 14 days are pure days off, no phone calls, no extra work, nothing. I feel that I have far more quality time with my family than somebody working M-F, 9-5. Now I cannot tell you if it is a good idea for you to switch careers or not, only you can decide that. I can tell ypu than I like the work-life balance that this career brings.

Let us know what other questions you may have.

Chris

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Aloha Justin!

I’m your huckleberry! You see I was self employed in NY/MD for many years (restaurant biz) and have been a Hawaiian pilot for almost 9yrs now.

Somewhat similar story, I got my PPL, never really did anything with it other than recreational flying. Married with 3 small children. Business was good financially but I hated it. Hopefully you’re not where I was, but I was genuinely very unhappy. Sure I was home every night but only physically. My head was always at work. While there’s definitely something rewarding about being your own boss, even when you’re not open you’re never really closed (at least not in your head). Long short I decided I needed to make a change. Went to ATP, banged out the rest of my licenses and ratings, built my time and Continental Express was dumb enough to hire me. Yes it required some sacrifice financially, yes my wife and others thought I lost my mind, but after the dust settled it was the best decision of my life. Not just for my own mental health but for my family and all my relationships. As I said, sure I was home every night but I was generally an unpleasant person to be around. While I wasn’t the worst husband and father, I sure wasn’t the best.

Aside from just loving the job, flying for an airline requires virtually no responsibility when you’re off. After you park the plane, you’re done! When I’m home, I’m really home and because I’m not mad at the world I’m a whole lot more pleasant and attentive. Will you miss some holidays and events in the beginning? Sure but you learn to adapt (celebrate Christmas on Christmas eve or even the day after, etc) and your schedule will improve. Wife gets cracky you’ve worked a bunch of days? “Hey honey why don’t you come on my next trip with me, we can have lunch in Savanah, there’s this great little place I found” goes over really well.

After a few years I decided it was time to make the move to a Major. I had a friend at Hawaiian who was really happy. I was also very much over winter in the NE so I applied and they too were foolish enough to hire me. I fly interisland which is the greatest gig in aviation. We were always home every night but to deal with the busy summer and short staffing, we’ve started doing some overnights. At first everyone got really cranky but in reality there’s still plenty of day trips and a short overnight in Maui really isn’t too bad. That all said I have a beautiful home on the water in paradise and life is beyond good.

Anyway you’ve obviously got to do what works best for you and yours but for me it was the single most positive move I’ve ever made in my life. You only get one life, I say make the most of it.

Adam

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Thanks Chris, I’ll check out their schedules. I really appreciate it!

Thanks for responding. It sounds like I’m in the same boat that you were in and reading this gave me hope to make the switch. God willing I’ll be sitting on your right one day in Hawaii. This was very helpful, much appreciated

Justin,

Being home every night is what most pilots hope for but the reality is that only a few actually achieve that lifestyle. However, that doesn’t mean that it is not possible for pilots and their families to have a happy and fulfilling life.

I feel like if both parties are right for each other then it shouldn’t matter if one party travels for a living. If both parties want a successful relationship, they will find a way to make it work.

Aviation comes with many pros and cons and sometimes the two lists are interchangeable depending on who you talk to. I think the best way to approach the job is with realistic expectations. You will be gone. A lot. But you will also be home a lot. How you manage your time is up to you.

There are no guarantees in this industry. No promises. Seniority generally dictates your overall quality of life but even that is subjective and dynamic.

Early on before I started flight training I also struggled with the concept of being a pilot and being a family man. It was a lifestyle that I was not familiar with and I couldn’t see beyond my own experiences. Yet here I am. A pilot with a wife and a two month old son and we are making it work. In fact, we both really love where we are at and where we are headed. We both support each other and we make time for each other and our son and our dogs and our families and everyone has been respectful and supportive of my career choice.

Our families are always considerate of my schedule. I always feel like I am included. I can’t make every family event, but at least attempts are made to work with my schedule before a final decision is made.

So, what I have found is that while this job is very different than most, a loving and supportive family makes all the difference.

Tory

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Hi, to continue this topic, isn’t another way to minimize days away from home is to bid for layovers in your hometown? Also, assume for some of the other trips, your family could join you for a “mini-getaway” if their schedules allow?

Ravi,

Yes. That is another way, but the schedules change. Bidding for layovers in your home town is nice, but never sure thing.

I know an FO that commutes from Billings, MT. He tries to bid for trips with BIL overnights, but he also bids for trips that are commutable, i.e. start late enough for him to catch a flight to SEA before the trip and end early enough for him to catch a flight home after the trip. One problem he runs into is when the company changes the BIL overnight trips to what he considers non-commutable. When this happens it is not worth it to him to commute the day before the trip. He would rather find a different “commutable” trip that way he’s not wasting one of his days off commuting.

Family can also non-rev on your flights, yes. But again, that’s never a sure thing. When family non-rev, they fly standby. It could add another layer of stress because there is always a chance that they might not get on. So, it depends on how flexible their travel plans are and how comfortable they are with the booking system.

Tory

Ravi,

Since most pilots try to live in base, bidding for trips that overnight in your hometown really isn’t a thing since they would essentially be day trips. If you commute, sure you could bid for trips close to home but that depends on: 1) does your airline fly to your home?, 2) does your fleet fly to your home?, 3) can you hold those trips at your seniority?, 4) how long is the layover and is going home worth it?

I still have alot of family in NY. After years I was finally able to get JFK trips and I was stoked. Problem was we got in at 7am, peek rush-hour so it took 2hrs to get home, I was exhausted from flying all night and kept dozing off throughout the day, I had to lay down at 8pm to try and get 8hrs for my 4am wakeup. It was pointless.

Taking family is great IF/WHEN there’s availability. Also depends on the size of your family. One person is easy, 2 less so, etc etc.

Bottomline is if you’re going to be an airline pilot you’re going to be away from home. It’s unavoidable.

Adam

Hello,

I really appreciate everyone’s replies and feedback. Being on here and seeing other positive views (along with the negative too), has helped me to choose aviation for my new career path!!

I wanted to trouble some of you for a little more advice if possible:

A little update first-
I just finished up my private pilot, and God willing will have my commercial multi by March/April (I plan on taking 3-4 hours a day and flying a few times a week on top of it when weather will permit).

Now for the advice part-
A customer of mine works for a large sim school (I’m happy to say the name, but after reading the forums I don’t know if it’s proper). He has something to do with the corporate side of it. However, he had said once I get my commercial multi, he would get me into their “right seat program” which would get me a type rating and hopefully a job. I know there are no guarantees, however he did mention two people last month got picked up to fly full time with just over 300 hours. I am wondering if this is a good decision, or if I should aim for my cfi, and build hours teaching then move to regional and ultimately the majors. This almost seems too good to be true. The idea of building up turbine time, without time in the regionals would give me a better shot of making the majors with the way the industry is.

Any inputs would be greatly appreciated!

Best,
Justin

Justin,

It is no trouble at all, it is what we are here for.

Congratulations on the private license and welcome to the world of being a pilot.

As for the simulator job, it really depends on what your goals are. If you want to be an airline pilot, this will work against you. You need flight time for the airlines and simulator time does not count. If you want to go into the corporate world, this might be a way of doing so. I am curios to see what Hannah thinks of this as she has more knowledge of the corporate world than I do.

Chris

Justin,
I think you need to dig for more information first. Getting an opportunity to get a type rating and build turbine time at just 300 hours is great. But how much do they fly a month? How will you be able to log it? On the 135 side of things you have to be very careful when it comes to time building. If you want to read a cautionary tale just research what’s going on right now with Boutique Air. The local FSDO invalidated their need for SICs and even went as far as saying any time logged by SICs (in their company) can not count towards their total time. Can you imagine flying 1000 hrs and then realizing none of it was logged legally and having to start over?
If you do fly there for some time building, you would still need to take the step to the regionals before the majors. The turbine time is great and will help you get hired by the regionals but the majors still don’t like to hire straight from 135 unless you have three or four times the amount of hours. So if you wanted to stay on the corporate side, get a jet type and get 3 or 4,000 hrs of turbine PIC then you could throw your app out straight to the majors and see how it fares.

So do some more digging… think of it as a great time building opportunity as long as it get you there quickly. Remember flight instructor can log 75-100 hrs a month so if they don’t fly that much, the turbine time may not be worth getting to the regionals 6 month later than your peers.
-Hannah

Hello,

I appreciate the insight and help Chris!

Hannah, I apologize I should of explained it better.

It was explained to me in this fashion:

Once I get my commercial multi I could jump into the right seat program at the sim center. The sim center would give me a jet type rating so I could sit in on the right seat of pilots going for a flight review (I’m not sure if its called a flight review at that level). I would get paid a small amount for being there by the sim center, but I was told it would help me get picked up by someone on the 135 side that needed a first officer as well as meet people.

I had no idea the majors wanted so much more time coming from 135. Everywhere I looked up I only see the turbine time, PIC, ect… However, I know just meeting requirements doesn’t mean there is a job waiting.

I don’t believe being in part 135 for a long period of time is right for me. The reason why I am hoping to go to the majors isn’t to chase money, but to do something I really enjoy while having a much better work life balance. From what I read it seems like 135 gives you a much different job experience as a pilot, but most are on call a lot and can spend weeks away at a time.

Thank You,
Justin

Justin,

If the majors are your eventual goal, then I would stick with the traditional route of flight instructing and then going to the regional airlines. The majors are going to want to see flight time and plenty of it. simulator time and a few hours here and there of jet time are not likely going to help you accomplish those goals.

Chris

Justin,

If it’s really not about the money I think you’ll find Regional flying very enjoyable. While the quality of life isn’t great in the beginning, you’ll build seniority fairly quickly. In most cases you’ll have a much better schedule then the 135 gigs.

Adam

Justin,
As much as it sounds intriguing, if you’re goal is the airlines I’d stick with the most efficient route. That’s getting your CFI, instructing 80-100 hrs a month and getting your app in as quick as possible. The sim time wouldn’t be that valuable unless it turned in to a job where you could log turbine time. Even then, the hours hardly compare to what a full time CFI can log in a month.
-Hannah